The Wellington Phoenix are keen to continue picking up points in January, after moving up to fourth place on the ladder last weekend following a 2-1 home win over Central Coast Mariners.
Their next opponent is Western Sydney Wanderers – whom the Phoenix beat 2-1 earlier this season at Eden Park in a thrilling match featuring a spectacular goal from Wellington’s Jaushua Sotirio. It will also be the Wellington Phoenix’s 150th home game at Sky Stadium.
The Phoenix remain one of the most in-form clubs in the Hyundai A-League this season, riding their 8-match unbeaten streak (5W, 3D) through a strong December which saw the club rewarded with top Hyundai A-League honours – Coach of the Month for Ufuk Talay, Player of the Month for Cameron Devlin and Young Player of the Month for Reno Piscopo.
The Phoenix will bring an amended squad into this match, with David Ball out with a hip flexor injury suffered against Central Coast – his work-rate and creativity is key to Wellington’s attack, so it’ll be up to Gary Hooper, Jaushua Sotirio and Ulises Davila to galvanise the frontline in Ball’s absence.
Likewise the squad will be missing both Alex Rufer and Piscopo in the midfield, with the former working hard to return from a knee sprain – suffered against Western Sydney in Round 9 - and the latter away with the Australian Under 23 team for the month. The squad has been buoyed by the play of Devlin in Rufer’s absence, with the 21-year-old excelling in his role and changing the course of the game with his energy and peskiness.
A win in this game will also equal the longest unbeaten streak in the Phoenix’s 13 year history history; a record set last season when they embarked on an epic 9-match unbeaten streak.
By contrast, The Wanderers have struggled this season against weighty expectations. They dropped five straight matches across November and December before picking up a draw against Western United in R11, and a win the following game against Brisbane Roar. They currently sit in at eighth on the ladder, just four points behind Wellington – and no doubt see the Phoenix match as a chance for redemption.
Although the Wanderers welcome back midfielder Pirmin Schwegler from suspension, like the Phoenix they’ll be missing some key players – namely midfielder Keanu Baccus and defender Tass Mourdoukoutas, who are both away with the Australian Under 23 team.
Western Sydney’s will look to their leading goal-scorer, Mitchell Duke, to have a better game than his last appearance against Wellington; where he failed to score and suffered a gash above his eye following a collision with Devlin.
Beyond this being an exciting match, Saturday’s game is also important for another reason – the Phoenix will be raising funds for Rural Aid in Australia to provide bushfire and drought assistance to farmers, firefighters, families and affected communities.
Wellington Phoenix will be donating $2 for every ticket purchased and $1,000 for every goal scored by the Phoenix in this match, and Sky Stadium will be matching the Phoenix’ $2 per ticket sold.
The Phoenix will also have cash collectors at the match, and will ask fans to either donate cash, support the relief efforts at www.ruralaid.com.au/football, or to text ‘Hope’ to 206 to automatically donate $3 in support of RuralAid.
At a Glance:
Date: Saturday, 11th January 2020
Kick-off: 4.45pm NZT
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Broadcast (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix Squad:
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Brandon WILSON, 13.Liberato CACACE, 17.Callan Elliot, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 23.Walter SCOTT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88. Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 12. Brandon Wilson (new signing), 23.Walter SCOTT (promoted)
Outs: 9. David Ball (Hip Flexor),
Unavailable: 7. Reno Piscopo (International Duty), 14.Alex RUFER (knee), 16.Louis FENTON (shoulder - season)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC Squad:
1..Daniel LOPAR (GK), 4.Dylan McGOWAN, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Matthew JURMAN, 7.Mitchell DUKE (c), 8.Jordan O’DOHERTY, 9.Nicolai MULLER, 14.Alex MEIER, 19.Pirmin SCHWEGLER, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Nicholas SULLIVAN, 23.Kosta GROZOS, 27.Kwame YEBOAH, 31.Noah PAGDEN, 33.Tate RUSSELL, 34.Patrick ZIEGLER, 35.Mohamed ADAM, 40.Nicholas SUMAN (GK), 59.Dean PELEKANOS, 62.Ali AUGLAH
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 8.Jordan O’DOHERT (promoted), 19.Pirmin SCHWEGLER (returns from suspension), 62.Ali AUGLAH (promoted)
Outs: 53.Mohamed AL-TAAY (not selected)
Unavailable: 10.Radoslaw MAJEWSKI (knee), 11.Bruce KAMAU (injury), 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (shoulder), 29.Daniel WILMERING (knee)